May 14, 2004

Commentary

Republicans’ Chase of Latino Vote Benefits Immigrants

By Juan Esparza Loera
Vida en el Valle


FRESNO, Calif., May 12, 2004 — There’s a new savior for Latino immigrants in California, but you probably won’t find this hero speaking Spanish or invited to dinner by community activists.

That’s because it’s the Republican Party that has come to the rescue of undocumented immigrants and their efforts to assimilate in the Golden State.

The GOP leadership should be credited for the failure last week of the so-called “Son of Proposition 187” to get enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot. Without the party’s support — and money to pay professional signature gatherers — the proposition died, 115,000 signatures short.

The Republican hierarchy shunned the new measure, most likely stung by Latino backlash after the 1994 passage of Prop. 187, which was driven by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. That initiative, which received 60 percent support from voters, sought to deny most public services to undocumented immigrants. It later was gutted by a federal court.

That is why activist Ron Prince decided to try his luck again with a new version he claims would survive court challenges. Specifically, his initiative would not touch education for undocumented immigrants but would deny them drivers licenses and most public services.

That was enough to prompt Los Angeles radio talk show host Terry Anderson to endorse the measure as a panacea: “All you folks out there worried about the drivers license for illegal aliens, this will fix it. All of you worried about matricula consular, this will fix it. This thing will fix a multitude of sins in the state of California. And trust me, folks, it can stand a look from the Supreme Court. This thing will work this time, absolutely!”

Too bad for folks like Anderson and Prince — and great for common sense and a brighter future between the Republican Party and Latinos — people weren’t interested, as evidenced by the lack of signatures.

Perhaps the GOP leadership, worried by record Latino voter registration and votes cast for Democrats after Prop. 187, realizes it doesn’t make sense to rile a fast-growing community that makes up more than 33 percent of the state’s residents.

Prince can whine all he wants that the Republicans let him down. The reality is that Republicans see the Latino vote as their savior.

In Orange County, a longtime GOP stronghold, the Republicans’ Lincoln Club raised more than $100,000 to help open the Lincoln-Juarez Opportunity Center, a nonprofit center that helps immigrants in Santa Ana. The center, which opened last year, is staffed by bilingual Republican volunteers.

“Hopefully, Republicans can build some goodwill in the community,” center board chairman John Cruz told The Orange County Register. “This is not about the next election. We’re not asking for anything in return.”

The good news doesn’t end there. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger has expressed support for a revised version of a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses, something that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush supports in his state.

It’s time Latinos embrace their newfound amigos. Invite them to dinner, send them a thank-you note or give them a big abrazo (hug). After all, they’re not asking for anything in return.

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage